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There’s nothing like being home for the holidays, but if you can’t make it there, go somewhere you know will completely embrace the spirit of the season with plenty of glowing lights, bustling Christmas markets, and cheery events galore. These six cities are some of the best towns for Christmas.

Christmas in Quebec

1. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

This 400-year-old walled city lights up like no other during the holidays, with a European ambiance, 16th and 17th-century stone houses and plenty of snow. Quebec City‘s charming Quartier Petit Champlain is one of the most magical parts of town with its thousands of lights and Christmas decorations strewn throughout the boutique-lined streets. At the outdoor ice rink at Place d’Youville visitors can skate to the sound of Christmas music and at the open-air German Christmas Market, shoppers can sample German mulled wine, cookies, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, Bratwurst and local products. Just a few steps away from the National Museum of Fine Arts, a walk down Cartier Street showcases giant lampshades dressed with artwork that illuminates the way. The grand holiday finale is an outdoor party on New Year’s Eve at Québec City’s Grande Allée, complete with DJ’s, street artists, concerts and fireworks. And don’t miss the stunning view of Quebec City from the big Ferris wheel open from December 27th to 31st

The National Gingerbread Competition in Asheville, North Carolina

The National Gingerbread Competition in Asheville, North Carolina | Courtesy of John Fletcher

2. Asheville, North Carolina

From a tour of America’s grandest holiday home to strolling artisan shops, a visit to Asheville during the holidays is a sweet Southern experience. Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, first opened its doors to guests on Christmas Eve in 1895, and it continues to wow visitors with more than 60 decorated trees, thousands of feet of garland and hundreds of poinsettias, and a 35-foot Fraser fir that stretches to the ceiling of the great Banquet Hall. Visitors to this majestic estate will can take part in the Candlelight Christmas Evenings, with an epic tour accompanied by music, stories and flickering fireplaces. Also not to miss is the National Gingerbread Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Browse more than 150 gingerbread creations, made entirely of edible items. And cross items off everyone’s wish in this long-time artist community’s diverse shopping districts, with independently-owned jewelry design studios, art galleries, and boutiques that offer unique gifts that blend this city’s bohemian spirit with the area’s rich Southern Appalachian craft tradition.


Blue Cross River Rink in Philadelphia

Blue Cross River Rink in Philadelphia

3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This historic city is known for its iconic holiday traditions, but has also added many new festivities that make this a must-stop on the East Coast winter trip. Philadelphia‘s expanded RiverRink Winterfest offers outdoor ice skating and nighttime fun at Penn’s Landing while the new Dilworth Park brings more skating options at the Rothman Ice Rink. The long-running Macy’s Christmas Light Show in Center City and traditional German-inspired Christmas Village in LOVE Park are sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit. Philly will ring in 2016 with the spectacular New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Delaware River Waterfront followed by the must-see Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day.

Related: These are some of Germany’s top Christmas markets.

Desert Ice Elevewated Walkway in Scottsdale, Arizona

Desert Ice Elevewated Walkway in Scottsdale, Arizona | Photo courtesy of Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC

4. Scottsdale, Arizona

Don’t let this desert destination fool you, there’s so much holiday magic here, you might even see it snow.First, book a trip on the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express train that departs the Depot in Williams, AZ for a journey through the dark wilderness all the way to the “North Pole.”

Check out the colorful sights and sounds of The Phoenix Zoo’s holiday light spectacular, dazzling with more than 3.8 million lights in 700 magical displays.  And don’t miss “Christmas at the Princess” at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, featuring a four-story musical tree, a desert ice skating rink made with real ice, magical snowfall, luxury rink-side fire pits, carolers, a Nativity garden set to music and a carousel. Ride on the Princess Express train to see 2 million lagoon lights with swans floating on the water, 14-foot poinsettias, a pirate ship, rocking horse, a menorah, dreidels, toy soldiers, Santa fishing and 85 sparkling trees making up the candy cane forest.


The Who-ville tree at Islands of Adventure

The Who-ville tree at Islands of Adventure | Flickr CC: tux0racer

5. Orlando, Florida

Orlando is pure magic during the holiday season when this sunny spot is transformed into a wintry dreamland with shows, snow and Santa. The festivities kick off after Thanksgiving and continue until early January around the various theme parks and resorts. At Islands of Adventure, Who-ville is decked for the annual Grinchmas event. Watch Dr. Seuss characters come to life in a musical show and dance around the Who-ville tree before getting a holiday picture with Mr. Grinch himself. Nextdoor at Universal Studios, balloons and floats from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade wind their way through the streets in a nightly parade celebrating the season. Enjoy worldwide Yuletide traditions at Epcot’s Holidays Around the World program. Meet Santa’s counterparts from other cultures and celebrate Kwanza, Hanukkah and other seasonal holidays from around the world. Then listen to the retelling of the Christmas story during the Candlelight Processional complete with a 50-piece orchestra, choir and a celebrity narrator.

100- foot Mayor's Christmas Tree in Kansas City, Missouri

100- foot Mayor’s Christmas Tree in Kansas City, Missouri

6. Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City makes most lists of iconic holiday destinations thanks to its historic Spanish-style Country Club Plaza, which blings out its 15 blocks of more than 120 stores and restaurants with 80 miles of holiday lights. The beautifully restored Union Station’s Holiday Train Village and Polar Express Pajama Party is another must-do for families. Head over to The City Market for its Whoville Holidays, a yuletide celebration featuring The Grinch, art activities and a Cindy Lou Who look-alike contest. In the Crown Center District, check out the 100-foot Mayor’s Christmas Tree, one of the nation’s tallest, and ice skate at the city’s oldest public ice skating rink, celebrating its 43nd season. And don’t miss the thousands of twinkling lights dance in tune with concert-quality holiday music during the Legendary Light Show.

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Tagged: Christmas Travel Ideas, Family time, Florida

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Jeanenne Tornatore

Jeanenne Tornatore

Jeanenne specializes in savvy budget travel tips, destination experiences, industry trends and the latest products to make any trip go smoothly. A mother of three, she's seasoned in all things family-travel, from the most kid-friendly beach resorts to navigating Disney Parks. Jeanenne is an avid outdoor adventure seeker, as well as a regular TV and radio content contributor. You'll find her @JMTornatore on Twitter and Instagram.

One thought on “Best towns for Christmas: 6 destinations that go all out”

  1. Amazing list of places for Christmas celebration. Christmas is one of the beautiful festival around the world. Bustling Christmas markets and events are the biggest attraction for the traveler. Christmas markets has lots of things to entertain people. I want to share a link with everyone, where travelers can create their free trip itineraries and share it with their friends:

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